The cunning Catalonians have snapped up a right-back... who won't be able to play until 2016, writes Tim Stannard...
Well, that whole transfer ban didn’t seem to do too much harm to Barcelona, considering the club managed to wheedle its way around it through the cunning mechanism of… (drum roll) making a transfer.
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The man breaking Barça’s summer signing duck is Sevilla full-back Aleix Vidal, who had a rather splendid season for the southern side, and is set to spend the next five years at the Camp Nou attempting Dani Alves impressions. The one quirk in Barcelona’s naughty-step predicament with FIFA is that the defender won't be able to play until 2016, meaning quite the time on the sidelines despite an €18 million price tag. However, if there's one club that's used to buying players who can't be unwrapped for a few months, whether through biting bans or being extremely injured and Belgian, it's Barcelona. What’s more, the Spaniard doesn't seem to be that bothered by the short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. A small dose of kudos must go to Sevilla, who picked up Vidal for just €3m last year from Almería and could make up to seven times the investment, once incentives and whatnot are factored in over the years. Monchi’s still got it. Oh yes.
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The next move that Barcelona might have to make is the small matter of deciding their coach. As LLL has hinted, treble-winning Luis Enrique is carrying a big rod of revenge against Josep Bartomeu, a figure he suspected was wanting to fire him in January when the pressure was on and Leo Messi was rumbling and steaming, seemingly on the brink of eruption.
The Barça boss admitted that he wasn't sure if he wanted to stay on at the club, with a vibe of 'infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me' in his post-Champions League press conference. “He was right to feel grumpy,” agreed Josep Maria Artells in Mundo Deportivo on Monday, sympathising with the prickly figure.
A sensational few days for Barcelona was mirrored down in the second division by little old Sporting de Gijón - a side who, back in the day, derailed an early version of Pep’s Dream Boys. The Asturians were fighting with Girona for the final promotion spot on the last day of the regular Segunda season and needed to better the Catalans' result. Until about one minute from the end of Girona’s match it seemed that Gijón were going to miss out despite being 3-0 up against already-promoted Betis.
But then disaster struck for Girona with an injury-time equaliser for opponents Lugo. To make matters worse, the home side then saw a goal disallowed for offside - quite rightly - before the crowd spilled onto the pitch to send the players into hiding before the final 40 seconds of the match could be completed.
Girona now have to rebuild their entire psyche for the play-offs, where they will face Zaragoza, with Las Palmas taking on Valladolid. The winner of those four teams will then have the dubious pleasure of promotion, and the chance to take on clubs so rich they sign players they know they can't use.